Alex Gordon was able to keep an eye on what was happening this season in Kansas City. While the Royals may have been going through a rough stretch, it's easy to see that times will soon be changin'.
Gordon, who spent this year in Wichita, will play a big role in that reversal of fortunes in Kansas City, as much for the leadership abilities he displays as for anything he does on the field. While it's his performance between the lines that earned him MiLB.com's Double-A Offensive Player of the Year laurels, it's his attitude and approach to the future that should have Royals' fans equally excited.
Talk to Gordon and there's no hint of him being a braggart, though no one would blame him if his chest were puffed up just a tad. After all, the second overall pick in the 2005 draft ranked in the top five in the Texas League in 10 offensive categories, including batting (.325), home runs (29), RBIs (101), doubles (39) and slugging percentage (.588). He was one of the most dynamic offensive forces in the Minor Leagues this season, but there's clearly more to the former Nebraska star.
"I don't try to seek out the spotlight," Gordon said. "I like to be a team player. And I think the Royals starting me off in Double-A this season was a plus right away. They put me in a situation with a lot of young guys and we had a great team and a lot of fun. Overall, the year was a plus.
"And you think about it (going to the big leagues) when you're hitting well. It's like, 'Am I going to get the call-up now.' But I just wanted to focus on having a good year and putting up good numbers. Wanting to get called up would have been a distraction. Everything happens for a reason, so there is no need to worry about."
Cool, level-headed and easy-going. That's Gordon. He doesn't seem to get too high or too low and already has begun to demonstrate that he'll be perfect as the poster boy for Kansas City's rebirth. And there's a real sense that he'll be the leader in the Royals clubhouse before long.
He showed an ability to adapt to the rigors of the pro game quickly this season, playing into September after calling it quits in June while at Nebraska. He said he learned how to prepare himself off the field so he wouldn't be as tired on the field during the second half of the season. And whatever he was doing clearly worked.
Gordon's worst month of the season was, not coincidentally, June. He hit .247 with a homer and eight RBIs, that figurative wall of not having played past a certain point in the year clearly becoming an issue. But the former All-American turned things around in July and August, hitting .355 over the final two months of the season with 19 homers and 62 RBIs.
"It wasn't an easy transition," said Gordon, who signed late in 2005 and had only a handful of Arizona Fall League at-bats between the time he left college and when he started at Wichita. "The first half kind of showed that I had my ups and downs. I struggled a little bit and once I got to the 60- to 70-game mark I kind of got tired. But I figured out what I needed to be doing off the field, and now I know what to expect."
Gordon isn't playing Winter Ball this year. He's home, working out and preparing for Spring Training, one in which he hopes to demonstrate that he's ready to play in Kansas City. If not, he'll be headed to Omaha, but even then the stay in his home state likely won't be a long one.
"I'm kind of worn down a little, bit but I know what I have to do to be ready for Spring Training," Gordon said. "I'm going to do everything in my power to make the decision an easy one for them and break camp with the big-league club. I'll do everything possible to start off there.
"The Royals haven't been doing well the last couple of years. But with the kind of talent we have, put us in the right situation and maybe we can help the team with some of the guys already on the big-league team and turn these losing seasons around. Then you'll see a new Kansas City Royals."
See, Alex Gordon has been watching. And that should bode well for the folks in Kansas City.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.